Ethiopian Cupping Caravan: Day 1

Trucks delivering coffee at the Hawassa ECX

My flight landed at at 3:50 am after a rocky flight from Cairo. There was no bothering translating any of the Arab to english for the pilot as there seemed to be no foreigners on board, so I had no idea why we were parked on the runway. It was about this point that it hit me: I was spending the beginning of my 22nd birthday on the runway of the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. I had butterflies in my stomach and my whole body was numb; the first was excitement, the latter exhaustion. I followed the signs, written in Amharic (which looks like it was written by a drunken chinese), that eventually landed me in front of a fold up table with 4 people with their heads down. Snoring. “Hello?” He snorted and lifted his head, instructed me to give him 20 USD, and I had officially obtained my entry visa. Then I headed over to the immigration desk and had to wake him up as well. Then to the shuttle pick up point and, wait for it, I woke him up too. I started to feel bad, it was my birthday and the only thing I had accomplished was ruin the sleep of 3 seemingly innocent men. I finally arrived at the hotel and asked for my wake up call at 7am “As in in 2 hours sir?” “Yes, unfortunately you heard me right.” I woke up two hours later still jittering and ready to go.

I met the rest of the group in the lobby and off we were. My first trip to a coffee growing region. We had two big transport vans, one loaded with water jugs and propane on the roof rack, headed south towards Hawassa, our first destination. The car ride was, frightening at first  as our driver, Malkonik, was bat shit crazy. He was fond of passing trucks that were passing trucks on one lane highways, all while honking at them for being in his way. After a little while we all got used to it and actually quite enjoyed his lightening speed driving through rural Ethiopia. The car ride was great to get to meet everyone. We talked of coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, tequila, coffee, and coffee. All the while it was stunning to just watch the streets. We passed very humble towns were the street seem to be the hub of activity. People, cows, donkeys, goats, and tuk tuks all crowded the street as though there was no where else to be.

We arrived at the Hawassa ECX (Ethiopian Commodity Exchange) and they were awaiting us. Like good helpers we quickly unpacked the truck and set up our first cupping. The first cupping was quite cool. Some coffee were average, most pretty good, but one stood out: Duraminha. A delicious coffee that tasted of lemon tart, blueberries, had sparkling acidity and a rich creamy body. An amazing coffee. After the cupping we packed our supplies, thanked our fellow ECX cuppers for joining us and allowing us the use of space, and departed for the Fura Institute.

It was late at night, and the power had gone. One by one we queued up to a candle lit lobby/hut where we were handed room key’s (actual keys not key cards) and went to drop of our bags in our new rooms that were equipped with a bed, a pair of sandals, and a shower and sink with no running water. We all met at the dining hall were we shared a long table, fasting food, and plenty of beers. The food was amazing, especially the Lamb Tibs. A kind of chopped and sautéed lamb bits with some sort of sour sauce that you ate with the local Injera bread (a fermented Teff based tortilla style bread.) The food flew, the beers were drank, and before you know it we were playing a round of poker. It lasted a whole of a half dealing until our hosts announced their departure and therefore our dismissal. I scurried into my bedroom, thinking about the possible adverse effects of combining Malarone (read: poison) and booze, and fell dead asleep. And that was it my 22nd birthday had come to an end. When I woke up next morning…

One Response to “Ethiopian Cupping Caravan: Day 1”
  1. fabian11 says:

    A shower and sink with no running water? Was this a temporary condition (an immediate problem), or how long have they not had water for in the rooms? Why?

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